We’ve all heard that consuming sugar-free beverages and candies were better for your teeth than it’s tooth-rotting brother- the sugary candy or drink. However, recent research may prove this idea to simply be a an old-wive’s tale. Really, we all should have seen this study coming from a mile away; especially with all of the controversy over how DNA and the brain are affected by artificial sweeteners. Those sugar substitutes just can’t catch a break, and neither can we. Though our bodies do not require refined sugar, they sure do crave it. So, to be healthier, our culture has turned to sweet alternatives. Unfortunately, this study performed at the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre, isn’t going to do our sweet tooths any favors, either.
Why Sugar-Free Doesn’t Mean Better
The Oral Health CRC did testing on the 15 most-sold soft drinks in Australian school cafeterias: 3 of the 15 were sugar-free. Their subjects were extracted teeth. After exposure to the beverages, the teeth were checked for changes in weight, calcium levels and surface. The researchers found that all experienced loss in surface area and weight, with no significant difference between those exposed to sugar and sugar substitute soft drinks. The researchers attribute this to the chemical compounds found in diet beverages. Many of the chemicals used to give sugar-free beverages that sweet taste, are chelators which effectively leech calcium from your teeth, causing teeth to erode, and leaving them more sensitive and more prone to cavities; cavities being the prime concern for teeth exposed to sugar. It all comes full-circle.
The Oral Health CRC conducted similar tests on sugar-free sports drinks and sugar-free candies. Both yielded similar results to that of the soft-drinks. Additionally, the researchers found that highly acidic candies could lower the PH of saliva. Most artificial candy sweeteners are given their sweet or sour taste through the utilization of acids. Acids which decay teeth. You saliva is meant to protect and clean your teeth, by lowering its PH, it becomes counter-productive, as low PH’s also contribute to tooth erosion.
How to Protect Your Teeth From Tooth Erosion
Fortunately, the study did give some tips on how to limit tooth erosion:
-Drink more fluoridated water
-Chew sugar-free gum to promote salivation, hence protecting and cleansing your teeth and gums.
-When your enamel has been softened by erosive chemicals, brushing your teeth can actually remove enamel. So, don’t brush your teeth immediately after consuming erosive foods or beverages. Instead rinse with water and brush an hour later.
While these are good ways to limit tooth erosion, the most effective method to preventing it is by avoiding or significantly limiting consumption of these products. Additionally, the best way to care for your mouth is to stay up-to-date with your tooth exams. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Dan Matthews today.